As the last of the cattle headed up the loading ramp that lead to the back of a semi, Brown let out a contented sigh of relief. Their two weeks of hot work under the blaring New Mexico sun had paid off. Soon, if everything went well, they would be reaping the rewards of their hard labor, but the team still needed to get the fifty head of cattle to southern California first.
“Looks like a fine group of huffers you got here, Brown,” Nick said, as he wiped his dirty arm across his forehead. Having said his piece, the older man moved to the cab of his semi and started up the engine.
Brown’s partner Glen had finished loading their horses into the back of the trailer and with Nick’s nephew Trevor in tow, moved over to watch the last of the cattle enter the semi.
“Another job well done,” his buddy said, while brushing the dust off his jeans with his Stetson.
“You guys were up in the Gila a long time, huh,” Trevor said with a sloppy grin. “Any Broke-back Mountain action happen between you two?”
“The only broken back around here’s going to be yours, if you keep talking trash,” Glen said, before placing his hat back over his jet black mane of hair.
Brown laughed before saying, “Yeah, you better wise up youngster. Besides, who are you to talk, the closest you ever get to a pussy is when you pet your grandmother’s cat.”
With an angry glare, Trevor stormed off to join his uncle in the semi. After shutting and securing the back doors, the cowboys climbed into the pick-up, they used to haul the horse trailer, and headed off toward I-10.
* * *
Several hours later, the two vehicles were just reaching the outskirts of Tucson. The sun had set three hours earlier and the city glowed like a sea of fallen stars. Glen, who drove, looked over at him. “It looks like we’re running a little low on gas. I hate stopping in Phoenix. Let’s just fuel up here and we’ll probably be good for the whole way to Cali.”
“Fine by me. I could use a beer.”
“Oh, that’s real fair, you drink and I drive.”
“Sorry, bud, it’s in my contract.”
“We’ll see about that,” Glen answered with a smile. After contacting the semi, the trailer led the way into the Triple T Truckstop. The semi pulled past them heading to the special pumps reserved for the big rigs, while Glen glided them into the normal pumps that lined the parking lot in front of the store.
Brown hopped out of the pickup and said, “I’ll head in and grab us some supplies.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m sure. Ale for you and coffee for me, right.”
Brown called over his shoulder. “Come on. Maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll grab you a sandwich.”
After two weeks in the hills, the idea of grabbing a few cold ones did appeal to him and Brown was debating whether he should grab some or wait until they got to California when he reached the front doors and found them locked.
He tried them again. “What the hell?” he said out loud. “They can’t be closed. It isn’t even ten o’clock.” He was about to bang on the doors when he saw something odd inside. To the right of the checkout stand, he could just make out a smear on the floor near one of the central isles. He tried to peer in. It was hard to tell, but it appeared to have a reddish hue.
Glen’s voice distracted him.
“Hey, buddy are you okay?”
At first Brown thought he was talking to him, but upon turning, he saw that a lone man limped across the parking lot toward the trailer.
Glen spoke again. “What’s going on—oh crap! Brown, get over here! This guy’s covered in blood. There must have been an accident on the highway.”
Brown hurried to help, but Glen reached the man first. “Alright buddy, I think you need to lie down. You’re probably in shock. I’ll call 911. Were there any other people in the accident? We’ll need to—ahhhhhhh. Oh damn. Ahhh. Brown help!”
But it was already too late.
Even from twenty feet away, Brown saw the blooding man strike forward with his head and latch his teeth onto the side of Glen’s neck. With a growl, the madman tore a chunk out of Glen’s jugular, which released a shower of blood. Glen stumbled back. He pressed his hand over his wound and looked like he could barely stay on his feet.
But the man went after him again. Glen cried out as they both toppled over. Inside of the trailer, the horses lost control and began to whinny and kick the doors.
Brown only stopped long enough to grab a window cleaning stick, which he smashed the attacker on the back of the head with. The man didn’t seem to care and Glen’s screams reached new heights as the fiend took a huge bite out of his cheek.
“Get off him, you freak!” Brown yelled, as he gripped the stick with two hands and used it to pull the man away by his neck. The figure turned on him with gnashing teeth and Brown was barely able to avoid receiving a bite.
He backed away as the blood dripping figure came at him again. It was lunging forward until its head exploded with a shower of blood that sprayed the front of Brown’s trench coat.
“Oh damn,” he whispered, but then heard loud moaning.
“Brown, hurry up. There are more of them,” Glen managed to gasp as a spiral of smoke emerged from his pistol.
“More of what? What the hell is going on?”
“How would I know? But help me. I think I’m dying…”
To be continued next Saturday!